24 February 2021, 23:00:00
Photos of Gasan and Patist can be found in Joseph Carmel Chircop's book "Queer Mediterranean Memories" (2009)
Top Left: Gasan/Każan with Cigarette (he was not a smoker)
Bottom Left: Off to Carnival (1937) In front is Patist the cobbler in a light dress and hat and Każan at the back with the ring earrings and dress.
Right: Patist the cobbler
In the autobiographical book of Joe Bugeja "Reminiscences of Childhood in Floriana: Malta in Peace and War 1930 - 1950" (2010) he dedicates a chapter on Childhood Experiences in Wartime and a sub-section of this chapter is given the title "Colourful Neighbours".
He mentions Patist (Baptist) the cobbler who used to spend days in and out sitting on the doorsteps of his humble abode. Besides being a shoe-repairer, hordes of people used to come to him, both old and young to hear his stories. Bugeja describes the scene:
"I enjoyed sitting at his foot listening to legends of his ancestors or to personal anecdotes. I am sure his narratives were given exaggerated humorous twists of ancestral criticism that held us in stitches. Sometimes, any one of the crowd would cunningly ask a question purposely to make him repeat the comic behaviour of his aunt Kelina.
His natural narrative was as enjoyable as the studied art of a lecturer. He certainly kept us spellbound. To me, both the village dialect and the intonation of the sentences sounded so musical although some pure words and expressions were beyond my comprehension....there was also something peculiar in the softness of Baptists's speech, the gesticulations of his hands and the movements of his body. Only later did I come to realise that he way gay!"
Bugeja then goes on to describe another neighbour who people referred to as 'Gasan'. He describes this man "a bachelor, who occupied the small reooms below that of grandma's upper home. He was always impeccably dressed and excessivley clean. What struck me most about this young mean was that he always wore very tight trousers and colourful tops. He seemed to glide rather than walk and tilt his head to right and left while gesticulating with a weak arm to passers by. When he drifted along down the road with head held high as if studying the skies, he left behind him an overpowering scent of perfume.
...Joking among friends, we nicknamed him 'Is-Sinjorina, meaning 'young lady'....he was always home during the day. He kept his one roomed home spic and span. Every morning, he would dust the furniture. Standing in the doorway with an impertinent smile on his well groomed face, he put out a limp arm with the dangling duster in his hand. Repeatedly again and again, he shook the dust into the street outside his door. He never cared about the questioning looks of passers-by. In fact, he seemed to enjoy the stares of strangers and to field them cheeky remarks.
He was never around in the evening. I wondered where he slept at nigh...[Eventually] I learned that he worked in cabaret places where ill-reputed girls and men offered their friendship to lonely sailors in Grand Harbour. In those days, such cabaret places in Gzira, Floriana and 'the Gut, Valletta were notorious. Yet there seemed nothing immoral with Gasan! In fact, he was such an obliging young man. Anyway, it then dawned on me that he too was gay but different from Baptist."
"Reminiscences of Childhood in Floriana: Malta in Peace and War 1930 - 1950" (2010) by Joe Bugeja